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Ryan Yip

Ryan Yip

Rubenstein: Talented prospects face ultimate exam Add to ...

Are there any promising young Canadians out there who could win on the PGA Tour? The question is worth examining as the first stage of PGA Tour qualifying gets under way.

Qualifying tournaments of 72 holes each began Tuesday at six sites across the United States. Eight more will be held next week. About 20 players at each site will advance to the six second-stage events Nov. 13 through 17. The 108-hole final qualifying school event will go from Nov. 28 through Dec. 3 over two courses at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif. The top 25 players there will advance to the 2013 PGA Tour.

Twenty-one Canadians are entered this week. It would be absurd to say that this one or that one has no chance of advancing, golf being golf. But it’s possible to suggest a few players in their 20s who appear to have very good chances of moving ahead, getting through all three stages, and then doing well on the PGA Tour.

Eugene Wong of North Vancouver, B.C., has to be a favourite to advance. The 22-year-old won three consecutive Canadian pro tournaments last summer. Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver has taken Wong on as its touring professional. He’s a client of the Toronto-based International Management Group. Canadian golf watchers have high hopes for Wong, a former National Collegiate Athletic Association player of the year at the University of Oregon. He’s playing the first-stage event in Dayton, Nev.

Ryan Yip is also a player who could break through. The Calgary golfer will turn 28 on Dec. 7. In South Korea two weeks ago, he tied for ninth place at the CJ Invitational, which PGA Tour player K.J. Choi hosted – and won. Yip shot 64-71-70-72 in an impressive performance.

Former Masters winner Craig Stadler played with Yip in a charity event in Uxbridge, Ont., a couple of years ago. Stadler didn’t see any reason that Yip couldn’t make it to the PGA Tour. It’s all about self-belief, which isn’t easy to come by and which can’t be forced. Yip missed qualifying for the 2012 PGA Tour by just one shot a year ago at final-stage Q-school.

Mackenzie Hughes is another young player to whom Canadians should pay attention. The 21-year-old from Dundas, Ont., graduated this year from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. He won the 2011 and 2012 Canadian Amateur championships. A member of Golf Canada’s national team who played in the World Amateur Team Championships last week in Antalya, Turkey, Hughes has just turned pro.

In an unusual but creative effort, Hughes has set up a limited partnership to attract investors interested in helping him achieve his potential while getting a return on the investment. Don Robertson, a Dundas real estate salesman and the general manager of the Dundas Real McCoys senior amateur hockey team, has set up the partnership.

“We set out to sell 25 units at $5,000 each,” Robertson said Tuesday.

“We’re 80 per cent subscribed.”

Hughes entered the first-stage tournament in Kannapolis, N.C., and shot two-under 69 Tuesday. That put him in a tie for 11th place. Hughes shared 19th spot in the Canadian Tour Championship last August, when he was invited to compete as an amateur. Wong won that tournament, in which Hughes showed he could play with the pros.

Then there’s Cam Burke, from New Hamburg, Ont., and the winner of the 2008 and 2009 Canadian Amateurs. Burke shot 70 and was tied for 22nd place in Kannapolis. He turned pro in April of 2011 and has been playing the eGolf Tour, based in Charlotte. Burke told The London Free Press last year that he considers this the best developmental tour in the United States or Canada. He’s ninth on the money list, having won $47,913.84 (U.S.) this year.

That’s only about $350 less than Matt Hill won for leading the Canadian Tour’s money list this year. Hill, 24, is therefore exempt from first-stage qualifying. The former North Carolina State University standout who turned pro in 2010 will join Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., in second-stage Q-school. Gligic, 23, finished second on the Canadian money list, and so didn’t have to enter the first stage either.

Given the impossibility of predicting with any accuracy what might ensue during the next month of Q-school, at least it’s reasonable to believe this: Many young talented Canadian golfers have shown promise. At least some of those mentioned here, and others playing next week, could get to the PGA Tour – and soon, as in next year.

RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein

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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at rube@sympatico.ca . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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